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Thermo Scientific Orbitrap Technology Selected by the Medical Research Council for Groundbreaking Metabolomics and Lipidomics Research

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These systems leverage proprietary Thermo Scientific Orbitrap mass-analyzer technology, the recognized standard for accurate mass and high-resolution measurement, to provide precise and reliable information. The MRC is using Orbitrap™ technology for high-throughput and high-performance metabolomic and lipidomic profiling that has not been possible using traditional mass spectrometry instrumentation.

The Bioanalytical Sciences division at HNR, led by Professor Dietrich Volmer, is a center of excellence for developing innovative approaches to measure biomarkers for processes such as insulin resistance, energy expenditure and the availability of dietary nutrients within the body. The division uses modern biochemical and mass spectrometry techniques to conduct research aimed at identifying biomarkers for diagnosing and detecting the progress of nutrition-related human diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Professor Volmer’s goal is to build a unique population-based lipidomics platform allowing the application of studies of 10,000 or more samples. This platform will be used to establish biomarkers of nutritional intake, health and disease. For the MRC, a solution that offered high resolution and enhanced sensitivity was imperative to enable the development of its groundbreaking lipidomics platform.

Professor Volmer, head of Bioanalytical Sciences at MRC HNR and Dr. Albert Koulman, senior research scientist in the Bioanalytical Sciences division comment: “We are delighted that our unit will feature cutting-edge technology dedicated to lipidomic research. Our primary focus will be on the development of high-throughput lipidomic profiling methods, but we also have the facilities to analyze specific lipids in large sample sets. The Orbitrap instruments are very reliable and maintenance-free while providing the high resolution and sensitivity that is essential to our research.”

Metabolomics and lipidomics are relatively new scientific disciplines, currently driven by the performance of the analytical instrumentation used. Professor Volmer recently received an award of £2 million from a translational medicine funding call of the MRC to establish the Cambridge Lipidomics Biomarker Research Initiative (CLBRI) within his research division. The MRC has recently purchased four mass spectrometers based on Orbitrap technology: an LTQ Orbitrap Velos™ biomarker discovery platform, a MALDI LTQ Orbitrap XL™ instrument as well as two Exactive™ benchtop liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) systems. The Exactive instruments will be used in the high-throughput biomarker screening stages of the CLBRI projects, whereas the Orbitrap Velos will be applied to more detailed structural identification research such as those performed in biomarker qualification applications.

The initial experiments performed by Professor Volmer’s team in collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific have demonstrated the unique capability of Orbitrap technology to perform both targeted and non-targeted lipidomics profiling experiments in large sample sets. The MALDI LTQ Orbitrap XL provides unparalleled sensitivity for MSn analyses, a rapid scan rate, high mass accuracy and up to 100k resolving power. This enables the MRC to perform targeted analysis of phospholipids as well as unbiased profiling. The ability to apply both strategies in one experiment is an important step forward in the comprehensive analysis of the metabolome and the lipidome in particular